CBS’ Entertainment’s President Was Asked About Diversity And Things Got Awkward

Six new shows will debut on CBS this fall. All six — Kevin Can Wait (Kevin James), Man with a Plan (Matt LeBlanc), Bull (Michael Weatherly), The Great Indoors (Joel McHale), Pure Genius (Dermot Mulroney), and MacGyver (Lucas Till) — star a straight white male. So it’s no wonder the network’s entertainment president, Glenn Geller, was asked about diversity, or the lack thereof, during the Television Critics Association’s press tour earlier today.

How did it go?

“We’re very mindful at CBS about the importance of diversity and inclusion and I’m glad we’re having this conversation first,” Geller said. “We need to do better and we know it. In terms of leads, we are definitely less diverse this year than last year, and like I said, we need to do better.” Then why aren’t you? As pointed out by Variety, during the 2014-15 TV season, “only 12% of FX’s directors were women or people of color.” The next season, after a damning article about the dearth of diverse directors, “51% of the directors booked by FX and FXX are men and women of color, or white women.”

FX CEO John Landgraf recognized the problem (“We just happened to all be working in a system that was racially biased, and weren’t taking responsibility for stepping up and acknowledging that”) and did something about it (“Okay, we will be the change”). CBS, meanwhile, tried to subtly change the focus.

“But in terms of overall diversity in our new shows, we were actually more diverse this year than last year, and I think that that’s our commitment to diversity. It is ongoing… We showed you some photos of 16 new series regulars, 11 of them are diverse. I know they’re not leads, but 11 are diverse and that is our commitment to diversity and those just aren’t words. That is real action.” (Via)

Those in attendance weren’t buying it.

After being pressed by a critic who criticized CBS for having “years to fix this,” Geller reiterated, “I hear you, I really do, and I understand that we need to do better. I do want to point out, though, that in the ensemble casting, we are more diverse this year than last year, and that is forward progress.” It’s true: casting transgender actress Laverne Cox in midseason drama Doubt is good!

But that show’s lead? Katherine Heigl.

(Via Entertainment Weekly)